Will Gadd Climbs Spray Ice


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At points in the video This Way: Episode 4, it looks like ice climber Will Gadd is fighting his way across the frozen belly of a large white poodle. He's almost perpendicular to the ground and swinging his pick at thick white overhanging strands called “spray ice,” protrusions that form when condensation and spray from a nearby waterfall hit a wall and freeze.

Gadd won a 2010 Golden Piton award when he and Tim Emmett climbed the spray ice wall near the 463-foot Helmcken Falls in British Columbia. He named the route “Spray On” and gave it a grade of WI10—three grades higher than the world's previous hardest ice climb. In 2011, he told Outside's Adam Roy that when his pick entered the icicles there, it felt like swinging into hard Styrofoam that could lose its structure at any moment. In the video above, you can watch him climb the route.

The most difficult of the route for Gadd was figuring out how to prevent icicles from falling on him as he climbed. “We had to build safe zones by knocking a group of big hanging icicles
off the ceiling close to the wall, then climb from that point across the
roof, always staying out from under the icicles left hanging—sort of
like building a trail across the roof a stadium,” said Gadd. “Tricky, but we figured
it out after some close calls.”

Gadd will continue to push the limits by attempting a handful of new spray ice routes that he's found around the world. “It has all the complexities of hard ice climbing, but also
the difficult movement of intense sport climbing,” he said. “No 'traditional' ice
climb is ever going to come close to spray ice for difficulty and
intensity, although I still love traditional ice climbing too.”

This Way: Episode 4 is the final installment in a video series of climber profiles by Arc'teryx.

For more on Will Gadd, read “Checking in on the World's Strongest Ice Climber.”

—Joe Spring